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Inspiring’ student advocate retires after 15 years

Tally Hart, director of Student Financial Aid and founder of Ohio State’s Economic Access Initiative, retired Dec. 30 after 15 years at the university.

The Economic Access Initiative formed in 2006 with the purpose of helping first-generation and low-income kids become educated about college. The initiative focuses on outreach to kids as early as first grade, pairing them with current college students to discuss the possibilities of going to college.

Many of these children have never been told they could go to college, Hart said.

“Information is power and we try to provide that information,” said Laura Kraus, associate director of Economic Access Initiative.

A first generation college graduate, Hart said she has a clear passion for students and her job.

“It was my dream job,” Hart said. “When then-provost Barbara Snyder asked me if I would take this position, I honestly looked at her and said ‘Would you pay me to do that?'”

Kraus said her passion for the students was evident in her work.

“Tally’s always been an advocate for lower income and first-generation students,” Kraus said.

Hart started as director of Student Financial Aid in the mid-90s, and was hired by President E. Gordon Gee in his first tenure. When hart started, she said low income students enrolled at the lowest rate and they now enroll at the highest.

Others share Kraus’ admiration for Hart.

“She’s awesome,” said Jessica Rowekamp, coordinator of College Access and Success at OSU. “She definitely inspired me to keep going in this field.”

Hart also contributes to a lecture on Immigration and First Generation College Going, an informal discussion-based class where students and instructors learn from each other. Hart said the class is more of a friendly discourse than lecture, where Hart listens as much as she speaks. She said her favorite aspect of teaching is learning from students.

Sitting through her lectures, one might notice a casual air of familiarity. Hart’s soft-spoken, welcoming tone that seems to keep the class cool as discussions sometime become heated, discussing issues from illegal immigration to financial aid.

“I feel like I’ve known her a very long time,” said Mari Foisy, a third-year in sustainable plant systems. “She will make you an instant friend.”

Organizing her many post-retirement plans in a spreadsheet, Hart said she looks forward to unplugging her alarm clock, continuing her lectures and working with her dad on a family genealogy.

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